Channel 2 journalists express solidarity with Channel 10

Follows Channel 10 resignations due to a decision to apologize to US billionaire Sheldon Adelson for a January 2011 investigative report.

By
September 11, 2011 23:15
3 minute read.
Guy Zohar

Guy Zohar. (photo credit: Channel 10 news)

 
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In the aftermath of the resignations of Channel 10 news director Reudor Benziman, Ruti Yovel, editor of the This Week program and Guy Zohar, This Week presenter, journalists at Channel 2 issued a statement of solidarity in which they declared that despite the fierce rivalry between themselves and their Channel 10 colleagues, they respect their professionalism and integrity and recognize the importance of what they do for Israeli democracy.

The statement offers support and expresses confidence that the two news outlets will continue to work in competition with each other in the spirit of freedom of expression and the public’s right to know.

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The three Channel 10 personalities resigned towards the end of last week following a decision by Channel 10 to apologize to US billionaire Sheldon Adelson for a January 2011 investigative report, in which interviewees cast Adelson in a negative light in speaking about his business dealings.

In order to avoid the threat of legal action by Adelson’s lawyers, Channel 10’s lawyers, who had initially hoped to work out some kind of compromise, eventually caved in to pressure which generated an instant angry response by the station’s senior staff.

Zohar resigned on air at the conclusion of Friday’s program after reading the apology, and immediately afterwards confirmed the resignation on Twitter, saying that program number 40 was his last.

On air he said: “Sometimes you have to raise a black flag and stand up for professional and ethical values.”

While various aspects of the story appeared in several Israel media outlets last week, and in double-page spreads in some daily papers on Sunday, Adelson’s own paper, Yisrael Hayom, devoted a whole page to it on Sunday, leading with the apology, and noting at the conclusion of the section that Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are the owners of the paper.

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In a separate report on the same page, the paper quotes unnamed sources within the Channel 10 news department who say that Benziman was looking for an excuse to resign because of his strained relations with Channel 10 news presenter Ya’acov Eilon, who wields a lot of influence at the channel.

Another alleged factor was the low ratings that Channel 10’s news and current affairs programs have in relation to those of their rivals.

On Thursday, Channel 10 CEO Yossi Varshavsky convened a staff meeting to explain that the station was compelled to issue an apology, because if it didn’t, it might very well face closure, and the apology was the only way to ensure that this did not happen.

People who are close to Adelson have commented that while freedom of expression is permissible, misrepresentation is not.

Keren Neubach, on her morning current affairs show on Sunday, Seder Hayom (Agenda) on Reshet Bet, interviewed several journalists on the subject of tycoons investing in media.

Guy Rolnik, the editor-in-chief of The Marker, the Haaretz-owned financial publication, said that even though it is well known that investors who buy up television stations and newspapers lose money, it gives them power to battle against regulators, politicians and even journalists who may think twice about what they will write or say when preparing reports on them.

Neubach asked whether the cash infusion into Haaretz by Leonid Nevzlin, a Russian oligarch who this year acquired a 20 percent interest in Haaretz, would give him a say in the paper’s editorial line. This was something that Rolnik was unable to answer.

Neubach suggested that under the general status quo in the Israel media today, journalists have to practice a lot of self-censorship for fear of losing their jobs.

In recent years, several investigative reporters in both the electronic and print media have been ditched because the moguls on whom they focused brought pressure to prevent broadcast or publication.

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